IRISH LEAGUE: Hughes snatches late winner for Cliftonville against Carrick
A late Daniel Hughes thunderbolt snatched all three points for Cliftonville against battling Carrick Rangers at Taylor's Avenue.
The hosts looked to have done enough to claim a valuable point in their pursuit of Premiership survival, but Hughes’s 89th-minute rocket left Gary Haveron’s men empty-handed.
Andrew Doyle’s bullet header was cancelled out when Jay Donnelly netted his 17th of the season. In between times, Darren Murray contrived to miss the target from the penalty spot.
The win for the Reds puts them two points behind third-placed Glenavon ahead of the Lurgan Blues’ visit to Solitude on Saturday. Carrick, meanwhile, will have to pick themselves up for a six-pointer at Warrenpoint.
Rangers looked lively early on when Adam Salley twice called Reds’ keeper Peter Burke into action.
The deadlock was broken on 20 minutes when centre-back Doyle climbed above Johnny Flynn to head home from James Wright’s pinpoint corner.
Gerard Lyttle’s men showed more attacking intent in the early stages of the second half and George McMullan’s fierce 25-yard strike, which flew narrowly wide, was a warning shot.
Reds striker Murray squandered the chance to level matters when he missed the target from the spot after Steven Garrett was felled by Brian McCaul.
The visitors got a foothold in the game when Donnelly’s downward header squirmed between the legs of Carrick ‘keeper Brian Neeson and over the line.
The north Belfast men were knocking on the door as Hughes glanced a header over the bar before Garrett fluffed his lines when he was well placed.
Donnelly thought he had nicked it at the end only for his header to rattle the upright but Hughes had the last laugh, smashing home with a left-footed drive past Neeson.
Carrick Rangers: Neeson, McCaul, Traynor, Doyle, Taggart, McCloskey (Roy 81), Kelly (Chines 88), Johnston, Harmon, Wright (Cherry 72), Salley, McCloskey. Subs not used: Wallace, Kane.
Cliftonville: Burke, Brennan, Smyth, Flynn, Ives, J. Donnelly, McMullan (Lavery 82), Winchester, Garrett - Murray (Curran 62), Hughes. Subs not used: Gowdy, George, Henry.
Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey).